WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg is on board to be a significant member of the Nationals' future, having signed a seven-year contract extension on Tuesday that gives the right-hander a chance to opt out after the 2019 season.
The extension locks in Strasburg, the top overall pick in the 2009 Draft and one of the cornerstones of the Nationals organization, and it provides a wealth of stability for Strasburg and his family. The deal could also be a message to potential future free agents, especially reigning National League Most Valuable Player Award winner Bryce Harper, Strasburg's teammate.
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Now that one extension is done, some may turn their attention to whether Harper, who will be a free agent after the 2018 season, will follow Strasburg and sign long term with the Nationals before hitting the open market. However, general manager Mike Rizzo did not believe that any connections could be made between the two.
"I think each case is different," Rizzo said. "Each personality is different and each player is different. Their wants and needs are different. I think that they are independent of each other."
Both Harper and Strasburg have stated a love for living in Washington, and Strasburg credited his comfort level here as one reason he agreed to the extension. Harper could have the opportunity to command the largest contract in baseball history, and testing the open market could be the only way to accomplish that.
Harper did not elaborate after Monday night's 5-4 win over the Tigers when asked what Strasburg's deal could mean for him. But he was one of the players in attendance at Strasburg's news conference on Tuesday afternoon, along with co-ace Max Scherzer.
"Every player wants to play on a good team, and they want to play for an ownership that has the wherewithal to keep a good team together," said agent Scott Boras, who represents both Harper and Strasburg. "And certainly, this is a good team, and the Lerners have proven they have the wherewithal to keep a good team together. And that creates a strong probability of consideration, I'm sure, for any great player."
The Nationals made offers this offseason to free agents such as Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes and Ben Zobrist, all of whom landed elsewhere. Strasburg's signing could further sway players to sign with the Nationals, especially if they are poised to remain competitive for years.
Beyond any financial implications, Strasburg's extension sets up the Nationals' rotation, which entered Tuesday ranked second in the Majors in ERA at 2.66, to be a potential power for years to come.
Strasburg and Scherzer figure to make up the top of the rotation through at least 2019, when Strasburg can first opt out, and another future star could arrive soon in right-hander Lucas Giolito, who is rated by MLB.com as the No. 1 prospect in the game. Not to be forgotten is right-hander Joe Ross, who will turn 23 later this month and is off to a tremendous start through 21 career outings.
"This thing is all about pitching, pitching and pitching, so we feel that we like our rotation," Rizzo said. "We think we put a guy on the mound every day that we think can win that night. And to lock up a Strasburg, a Scherzer and have capable young pitchers like a Ross, [Tanner] Roark and guys on the way like Lucas Giolito and have a Gio Gonzalez for multiple years, we feel good about where we're at as far as roster construction."